Ergun Caner, of Liberty University, called last Friday and we talked about the Evangelical Manifesto. It seemed a bit odd to see his name on the document considering he taught at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. We talked again today.
Whatever you think of the manifesto, Ergun's name sticks out like Joel Osteen at a John MacArthur's Shepherd Conference.
Tomorrow the official press release goes out, but Ergun has removed his name from the manifesto. I will link to the release when it is out, but Ergun sent his thoughts here and I have posted them below.
I have already shared my thoughts in USAToday, and elaborated here on the blog. My main concern was that this would be "spun" to say that Christians should not be involved in politics. In other words, we would see titles like this from the Los Angeles Times: Group of evangelical Christians writes manifesto urging separation of religious beliefs and politics.
Darrell Bock has graciously shared his thoughts here at the blog. At the same time he sent the blog info, he sent, but asked me not to publish, a forthcoming editorial in the Dallas Morning News. You can read that here.
Denny Burk and Bock undertake an insightful debate on the document here.
Updated Friday morning: The press release is out and adds more details, indicating the removal of Jerry Falwell's name from the manifesto. From the release:
The EM's web site also erroneously lists Dr. Jerry Falwell as a signatory. Jerry Falwell, Jr., the Chancellor of Liberty University, responded to the error: "As the founder of the Moral Majority, dad would not endorse a document that appears to undercut political activism. My dad was a man of courage who paved the way for a generation of socially conservative activists. He never backed away from his resolve to please God. He was a tireless defender of the sanctity of human life and family values."
Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: "The Evangelical Manifesto does not represent the views of Dr. Jerry Falwell, Dr. Ergun Caner, Liberty University, or, for that matter, the majority of evangelicals. While some might shy away from the public square, most evangelicals do not. Life and marriage are nonnegotiable. While our discourse must be civil and our compassion must be genuine, our resolve must never waiver."
FYI: According to Ergun, they did not release the press release until today to avoid the anniversary of Jerry Falwell's death. Jerry died one year ago yesterday.
Here is Ergun's statement (from Thursday):
I NEVER SIGNED THIS MANIFESTO
Dr. Ergun Mehmet Caner
President and Dean
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
In recent days, I became aware that my name is on the list of "Charter Signatories" for the Evangelical Manifesto (EM) (http://www.evangelicalmanifesto.com/sign.php).
There is only one problem.
I never signed it.
A few months ago, I was consulted by a member of the steering committee, and invited to read through a rough draft. At that time, I stated in an email that I felt the language concerning the forefathers of evangelicalism was too dismissive and too harsh. Men such as the founder of our University, Dr. Jerry Falwell, acted with courage in putting evangelical Christianity on the frontlines of the American dialogue.
I was saddened to read that this language was not changed.
Then I became angered by the tone of the presentation at the National Press Club (NPC).
I must state for the record, the EM does NOT reflect my position, and the speakers at the NPC do NOT reflect my position concerning the current state of Evangelicalism.
Even in the preface, I disagree fundamentally with a number of assumptions, namely, (1) that there is any confusion at what being evangelical means, and (2) that we stand in the tradition of the Protestant Reformation. First, I do not see any "confusion" concerning the term- we have always been clear what it means. We are conservatives who believe that Jesus alone is Lord, and the Bible is the only Word of God. The only confusion occurs when a non-evangelical wants to muddy the waters in order to become one of us, since we are such a large constituency.
Secondly, as a Baptist, I do not stand in the "Protestant" tradition. Historically Baptists are dissenters, and were hunted by many of the Reformers. I do not believe, as the longer version of the Manifesto reads, that "evangelical is synonymous with Protestant" (p. 10).
Further, reading the document sounds like an extended apology, and I do not apologize for the stance we have taken for decades: evangelicals are unapologetically and unabashedly pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-prayer. We believe that Christianity has been pushed out of the public square, and I do not believe such a "manifesto" will accomplish the aim of bringing prayer back in schools or rescuing the unborn. Simple logic states that standing for something requires standing against something else.
This was the genius of men such as Dr. Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, Tim LaHaye, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Adrian Rogers and others. They accepted the challenge of an unabashedly secular society without hesitation and without reservation. We are not "owned" by any political party, but we will stand with and for candidates that are for our values, and against those values that we see as unbiblical, such as homosexuality and abortion.
I absolutely stand against the tenor of the NPC meeting that seemed to distance itself from our forefathers in evangelicalism. Men such as James Dobson and Jerry Falwell stood for truth and righteousness. I not only thank God for these men, I believe we must carry on this fight. It is our duty to continue their stance, not run from it when criticism makes us unpopular. Popularity is not the goal of an evangelical; Converted souls in heaven are the ultimate goal. You do not change a culture by surrender. This is precisely what the document seems to do.
Thankfully, the aforementioned forefathers raised up a generation of men and women who continue to speak in the public square, and build great institutions that do the same. I shall continue to stand in the public square, without apology. I ask that my name be STRICKEN from the charter list of the Evangelical Manifesto. This is NOT a movement with which I am comfortable. I am more than happy to discuss these differences with any member of the EM body, either publicly or privately. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
DR. ERGUN M. CANER
President and Dean of The Seminary
LIBERTY Baptist THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AND GRADUATE SCHOOL
CN 2500 • 1971 University Blvd. Lynchburg, VA 24502
OFFICE: 434.592.4163 FAX: 434.522.0415